Jeremy Quin debates involving the Ministry of Defence during the 2019 Parliament

Armed Forces Readiness and Defence Equipment

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Thursday 21st March 2024

(1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered the First Report of the Defence Committee, Ready for War?, HC 26, the Eighth Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, Improving Defence Inventory Management, HC 66, and the Nineteenth Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, MoD Equipment Plan 2023-33, HC 451.

It is a pleasure to open this debate. There is only one way to start it, and it is how we should start every single debate on defence: with a clear-eyed appreciation of the threat to our country, our allies and our interests. Russia, which the integrated review identified and its refresh reaffirmed as our greatest adversary, has mobilised a war economy, spending nearly 40% of its budget on defence and security. Such is Russia’s rush to rearm that, notwithstanding all international sanctions, the International Monetary Fund has upgraded its economic forecast for the country from 1.1% to 2.6%, which makes it the fastest-growing economy in Europe.

Not only has Russia, through its renewed and devastating attack on Ukraine, shown its willingness to disregard every aspect of decency and international law, but its war machine is feeding an imbalance in munitions in Ukraine which we in the west are shamefully not doing enough to counter. The reality of war is that, ultimately, production lines tell. Notwithstanding the £2.5 billion that the UK is spending on military support this year, we need collectively to be doing more, not just in supporting Ukraine but in transforming our own supply lines. We need to enhance our own readiness to help deter Russia from a wider conflagration.

While the threat from Russia is grave, it is not the only threat we face. In east Asia, from which the Defence Committee has just returned, China has doubled its official spending on defence to $232 billion a year, although the real figure is much, much higher. North Korea is nuclear-armed, dangerous, unpredictable, and in closer alignment than for many years with Moscow. Iran and its proxies are destabilising the middle east, and, via the Houthis, pose a constant threat to shipping through the Red sea. In that regard, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force are actively engaged as we speak.

Following our withdrawal from Afghanistan, the willingness of the west to face up to these challenges is being studied by the global south—countries that are vulnerable to destabilisation and worse on the part of our adversaries. Any sense of the west’s being distracted, or unwilling or unable to rise to the challenge, risks encouraging the increasing number of autocratic states to act in contravention of international law. The sabre-rattling in Venezuela over resource-rich provinces of Guyana, a Commonwealth country, is just one recent example.

Has the risk picture changed for the worse in the last few years? Clearly it has. Have we fully risen to that challenge? We have not. Those of us who are old enough to recall the joy of the Berlin wall coming down will also recall that we had, in that decade, been investing more than 5% of GDP in defence—well over twice our current commitment. In 1989, there was a justifiable rationale for reductions in defence spending, but what goes down to match a decreasing threat must assuredly go back up to meet an increasing threat, and that is where we stand today.

In the Defence Committee report, we are robust not only about the professionalism of the armed forces, but about their ability to rise to any challenge. However, they are being run hot continuously, and that has a direct impact on their ability to train for, recruit and retain for, and be equipped to face the toughest challenge imaginable: a full-scale prolonged conflict, alongside our allies, with a peer adversary. That is just one of many challenges that our armed forces are designed to meet, but it is the most significant—the challenge above all others that we seek to deter.

I welcome the extensive engagement of our armed forces in this year’s NATO exercise, Steadfast Defender, but the days when that could be a routine exercise conducted by forces dedicated solely to the preparedness to face the Russian threat are long gone. Our forces’ sheer range of commitments, from global engagements to domestic MACAs—military aid to civil authorities—maintain constant pressure. The impacts are simple: recruitment and retention that is not up to the task; a hollowing out of munition stockpiles and our means to replenish them; and an inability to prepare and train for the worst-case scenario at the intensity required to bolster our allies, and with the confidence to deter adversaries. Our report highlights the urgent need for change.

To enable us to be fully prepared for peer-on- peer warfighting, something must give, be it the scale of operations and engagements or the size of national investment in defence. There is no doubt in my mind about the course that needs to be taken. The global operations conducted by our armed forces have a critical supporting role in our efforts to deter and prevent expansionism by our adversaries. What the UK needs is not a diminution of our ambition, but an increase in our investment.

In saying that, I am acutely aware of the regular charge that additional UK investment in defence is wasteful if the Ministry of Defence does not get its house in order on procurement. The Public Accounts Committee has set out in its report the difficulties faced by the MOD in meeting its equipment plan objectives. Reports over the years, not least from the Defence Sub-Committee under my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois), have highlighted where the MOD needs to do better on procurement. I have no doubt that we will hear from my right hon. Friend and others about some of the core weaknesses that these reports have revealed.

Mark Francois Portrait Mr Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) (Con)
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The answer to my right hon. Friend’s question is yes. Could he explain to the House that one of the things that the Committee thought about very carefully was how candid we should be about the weaknesses in our armed forces? After much careful deliberation, we did not include anything in our “Ready for War?” report that we had reason to believe our potential adversaries did not already know.

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Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin
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I said we would hear from my right hon. Friend, and indeed we shall. He is absolutely right. We are incredibly careful as a Committee to keep to the right the side of the line. There are a lot of facts in our report that make for very, very unpleasant reading. I do not have time to list them all today, with the clock whirring as it is, but I commend the report. It goes through some of the problems we face in great detail. As my right hon. Friend says, they will be well known to our adversaries. If we do not front up to those problems, we will be fooling no one but ourselves.

Obviously, I have a personal interest in this matter, but I believe that over the past five years we have seen a real determination from the MOD to get better, and there are structural changes that will embed improvement. The defence and security industrial strategy moved the MOD away from competition by default and towards viewing our defence sector as a critical strategic asset. That has proved a timely intervention, placing more emphasis on building sovereign capacity and greater reassurance of our supply chains. DSIS has marked an improvement in the relationship with industry. Companies large and small are more engaged than they have ever been in the early thought processes around capability requirements and specifications. There is better investment in senior responsible owners to exercise control and authority over projects.

When the Department and industry work together—for example, on Poland’s defence expansion or on novel technologies for Ukraine—it is a formidable combination. Baking exports and industrial co-operation into procurement at the earliest stage works for industry and for the UK. Above all, achieving minimum deployable platforms early and allowing for spiral development, if properly invested against, will generate not only routinely upgraded state-of-the-art platforms, but industrial partners that are able to retain and invest in their workforce and their research and development. It means going beyond feast and famine, and towards long-term co-development.

I believe that the Minister’s recently announced reforms are excellent. They institutionalise reforms that really will improve our procurement, but for them to work as they deserve, there needs to be cultural change. Uniformed SROs need to recognise the profoundly different skillset that applies to procurement. They need to be encouraged to seek commercial and legal advice early in order to escalate problems. Above all, they need to be willing to recognise that when a project will not work, they should take the learning and call it a day. If we are focused, as we must be, on cutting-edge solutions, we must recognise that some will not work. For any commercial entity, that is not a sign of failure; it is a recognition that, in a portfolio, some risks will be taken that do not succeed.

In Defence Equipment & Support there are many good people doing a difficult and demanding job, but I believe it is absolutely possible, as part of the current reforms, to instil and reward greater entrepreneurialism and productivity. DE&S has the pay freedoms to do so. With cultural change and proper investment, the reforms will move us from peacetime lethargy, influenced by staccato funding, closer to the urgency and realism that the threats demand.

It is clear that no one on either side of the House should think that we can get to where we need to be against the current threat simply by being a bit better at procurement. As our report makes clear, significant improvements are required in everything from stockpiles to housing simply to retain and maintain the size of our current force structure, let alone increase it, as we should.

Alec Shelbrooke Portrait Sir Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con)
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I am glad that my right hon. Friend has mentioned accommodation, on which I focused after succeeding him as Minister for Defence Procurement. Does he agree that accommodation is as much a part of operational capability as hardware in the battlefield?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin
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I support my right hon. Friend’s point. We had “fix on failure” for too long, although it has changed in recent years. More investment is being put into our housing, but it is needed because we have a crisis in retention and recruitment. As the report sets out in vivid and very scary detail, we are losing far more experienced personnel than we are able to recruit. Housing is part of the offer to our brilliant defence personnel that we need to get right.

While addressing all the issues I have mentioned, we must also increase our fundamental defence production capability. We underwrote commercial military expansion in the 1930s, and we should be prepared to do the same. It is absolutely clear that, although better buying will of course help, it should be alongside, not instead of, sustained, effective and increased investment.

Investment horizons on priority projects must stretch well beyond annual commitments to allow proper planning. We will make savings if the services do not gamble all their chips on the delivery of a perfect platform when it is “their turn,” and they will not do that if they know funding will be there for upgrades. Industry will invest alongside that, will work with small and medium-sized enterprises and will train the workforce we need if it knows that we are marching together for the long term rather than being marched over the edge of a cliff at the end of every order.

The need for increased defence investment would be true in any circumstances when faced by the threats we face. It is all the more vital when the United States’ commitment to Europe is being questioned. Since 2015, this Government have shown themselves to be ready to make difficult decisions, have shown leadership in the early days on Ukraine and have increased investment. In my personal opinion, the Government must now set out their timetable for reaching and sustaining 2.5%.

Although decisions should be taken “capability up” rather than “numbers down”, it is also my view that we are unlikely to be able to meet and deter expanding threats in the longer term for less than 3%, which remains a low level of annual insurance compared with the relatively recent past. However, the sooner the Government commit and invest, the lower the ultimate price likely to fall on this country. By doing so, we might be able to help save all of Europe by our example. Failure to invest could result in a very high price indeed.

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James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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As my right hon. Friend has already intervened, I hope he will allow me to make some progress and refer to comments from colleagues.

Obviously, there has been particular debate about spending. The shadow Secretary of State was unable to answer whether Labour would match the figure of 2.5%, but a number of my colleagues wanted us to go further and faster. This point was put well by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Richard Foord). The Chair of the Defence Committee and others have suggested that we should look back to the sort of GDP figures in the cold war, although they did not necessarily say that we should go to exactly those amounts. However, as was said by the hon. Gentleman, who I believe was in military intelligence, in those days almost all of eastern Europe was an armed camp full of Soviet divisions, whereas now those countries are in NATO, so the situation has changed profoundly.

As was rightly said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Sir Alec Shelbrooke)—one of my predecessors as Minister for Defence Procurement—if we increase defence by a significant amount, the money has to come from somewhere. An increase from the current level of about 2.3% to 3% equates to £20 billion, which is not a small amount of taxpayers’ money. Even an increase to 2.5% equates to an extra £6 billion. So it is Government policy to support that but to do so when we believe the economy can support it on a sustained basis.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) made a passionate speech about how there had, in effect, been a cut to defence spending in the Budget, and several other Members said the same. I do not agree, although I accept that there is a debate about it. It is about the difference between the main estimate and the supplementary estimate, and some people have said it is about the inclusion of nuclear. To me, the nuclear deterrent is fundamental to defence, so of course it should be in the defence budget. We are not going to take out GCAP or frigates, and we are certainly not going to take out the nuclear deterrent, which is at the heart of the UK’s defence.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin
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I like a lot of what the Minister is saying. It is right to say that we have, in Poland, Finland and Sweden, allies in NATO that produce great capability in terms of dealing with the threat from Russia, but since 1989 China, now one of the two biggest economies in the world, has gone on to be spending £232 billion alone on defence—and that is just the official number. We also now have a nuclear armed North Korea, with Iran making its way in the same direction. The world picture is darkening. That may not necessarily “directly impact” us, to use the words of other hon. Members, although I think it does, but it has indirect impact on some of our allies and on where they need to place their resources. It is a real concern and we should not forget that.

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that. It shows why I have repeatedly said that we need to reform defence procurement because of the need to stay competitive with our adversaries.

I agree with the Chair of the PAC, the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Dame Meg Hillier), and my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Danny Kruger), that we cannot just look at what we want to spend and at the future aspiration; we have to look at how we spend the money that we have better. That is why on 28 February I announced our new integrated procurement model, to completely overhaul our approach to acquisition. I said in my speech—and I stand by this—that the current delegated procurement model, under the Levene reforms, has created an inadvertent tendency towards over-programming: as soon as there is financial pressure on the equipment plan, such as we have had through inflation, the single services compete to get their capability on contract. By contrast, the very definition of our integrated approach is pan-defence prioritisation, as we are seeing in practice in our pending munitions plan, which will address many of the concerns of right hon. and hon. Members about getting our industry up to spec in terms of missiles and other key munitions. Let me be clear that such prioritisation would be challenging even if we went to 2.5%, such is the nature of defence.

A particular priority of our new acquisition model, as was referred to by the Chair of the Defence Committee, is spiral development: accepting 60% or 80% of requirements rather than 100% exquisite. The key to that is ramping up our engagement with industry, so we have held far more engagement events with industry at a secret level. Just this week, for example, we have held engagement between the strategic command and industry about cyber and electronic warfare—at a secret level, because we want to empower industrial innovation.

I have also said that exports are a key part of getting our industrial base as resilient as possible. So I am delighted to confirm the overnight news that BAE Systems will partner in Australia to build its nuclear-powered submarines. This is a major moment for AUKUS, and the collective submarine-building will support 7,000 additional British jobs across the programme’s lifespan.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) and the hon. Member for South Shields (Mrs Lewell-Buck), who this week chaired the Sub-Committee on AI, both rightly stressed the importance of technology. To see that, one need only look at the situation in Ukraine and at the extraordinary propensity of electronic warfare, which underlines how the battle space has changed. So a key part of our system will be about learning the lessons from the frontline as rapidly as possible, as we spiral our own developments in response. We are learning those lessons. For example, as part of its drive to incorporate autonomous platforms flying alongside crewed fighters, the RAF is now progressing to procure drones to overwhelm an adversary’s electronic warfare defences. That underlines an important point: that advantage in future warfare and uncrewed combat, will not necessarily be gained by individual platforms and technologies; it will be their smart integration, across crewed and uncrewed systems, that will enable us to develop a force fit for the future. That is why I believe we need an integrated approach to procurement.

To conclude, the brief snapshot of military exercises that I have outlined today does not do justice to the breadth and reach of our armed forces. They are more than ready. They are out there, deployed all over the world, keeping us safe and defending our interests. Meanwhile, the reforms we have made to procurement will help us adapt to emerging threats and evolving technological possibilities. That is a key lesson from Ukraine and from our Defence Command Paper.

This Government will continue to back our armed forces with record levels of defence spending, an ambitious 10-year equipment plan and by forging a new partnership with industry to co-develop cutting-edge capabilities. It is a plan that will ensure that our defence industrial base is more resilient and our armed forces are better equipped. It is a comprehensive strategy for our national security, and I commend it to the House.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin
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Madam Deputy Speaker, as the shadow Secretary of State said, your predecessor in the Chair at the start of the debate complimented the hon. Members standing, saying that he anticipated the debate would be rich in facts and high in quality. Almost universally, he was absolutely right. It was an excellent debate.

There is an almost universal view, on both sides of the House, that our brilliant armed forces are simply running too hard against all that is demanded of them to meet essential commitments. A war is taking place on our continent. As the Defence Secretary has said, we are in a pre-war phase. Our Select Committees have an essential role to play in highlighting difficult issues, as we have been doing this afternoon. I endorse what the Chairman of the PAC said in relation to finding more ways in which Select Committees can scrutinise the most sensitive of defence programmes. That is important for Parliament and helpful for the Government.

We have to rise to the significant challenges set out in the two reports, on the readiness of the armed forces by the Defence Committee and the equipment plan by the PAC. I welcome what the Minister said about AUKUS. I did not expect him to answer all the questions that were raised in the reports, but he must work on it because I know the Department will work on it. We have our job to do. It is our duty to raise these difficult concerns, and I know both Committees will continue to do so.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered the First Report of the Defence Committee, Ready for War?, HC 26, the Eighth Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, Improving Defence Inventory Management, HC 66, and the Nineteenth Report of the Committee of Public Accounts, MoD Equipment Plan 2023-33, HC 451.

UK Armed Forces

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 11th March 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments about HMS Richmond. I am sure that we all agree and pay tribute to our Royal Navy personnel, who are there ultimately to defend not only themselves but freedom of navigation for the rest of the world. We should recognise the importance of the role that they are undertaking on behalf of our Government.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about the funding for next year. To be clear, that will represent a 1.8% increase in real terms and not the cut that he suggested. If we spend the money that we expect, it will amount to £55.6 billion—about 2.3% of GDP, which is traditionally how we measure our spending. That is significantly above the just under 2.1% in 2019, so it is a significant increase as a percentage of GDP.

The right hon. Gentleman also talked about recruitment, which is an important issue. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Defence People and Families is doing a lot of work on that and, as the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, in January we saw the highest number of applications to the Army in six years. A more positive picture is developing, recognising the importance of the mission. We should not talk down our armed forces when we expect people to apply and to want to be recruited into them.

I note the range of comments about the 2.5% and want to make several points. The first is that the right hon. Gentleman said that we had not spent that percentage since Labour were in power. Well, something extraordinary happened at the end of their time in power: they crashed the economy, we had a full-on banking crisis and a letter was left for our Government saying “there is no money.” It is no surprise that we had to take difficult decisions, but despite that we have shown our commitment to the armed forces.

When he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Prime Minister approved the largest ever increase in defence spending since the cold war, and there has been further money since then in the Budget. Of course, we are committed to 2.5% when the circumstances allow. For all the right hon. Gentleman’s bluster, he has not even committed to matching our current spending on defence, let alone 2.5%; we challenged him on that at Defence orals and he was not able to give any commitment whatever to spending.

The public know where we stand: 2.3% in the year ahead and 2.5% when the economics allow. We do not have a clue where Labour stands.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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I agree with the Minister that we have extraordinarily capable armed forces whose productivity is second to none. However, as is set out in “Ready for War?”, our Defence Committee report, they are extremely engaged globally and have a great deal to do, much of which is invaluable. At the same time, they are having to prepare for the “pre-war” phase to which the Defence Secretary referred. In that context, does my hon. Friend agree that the timing of the 2.5% target—that is very welcome and a very good first step—needs to be determined by the level of threat as a priority expenditure, rather than as economic conditions allow?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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I do not think that we can commit to levels of public expenditure or tax cuts, for example, without being confident that the economy can support them in a prudent fashion—an entirely reasonable and rational approach. However, I totally agree with my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Defence Committee. We all recognise that we are living in a more dangerous world—the Secretary of State has alluded to the threats we face not just in Ukraine but in respect of other adversaries around the world—and I totally understand why there is the wider debate on what we spend, but we already have a significant budget, and we must ensure that it is spent well and delivers value for money. That is why a key priority for me is reform of our procurement system so that we can ensure that our armed forces can prioritise effectively. Ultimately, it is the capability that we have now that will determine our ability to warfight.

Defence Acquisition Reform

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Wednesday 28th February 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I call the Chair of the Defence Committee.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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I congratulate the Minister on the statement, which looks to the future. There is a lot in it to commend. In particular, it is absolutely right to focus on data collection and making certain we are AI-ready. I am delighted about DSTL’s enhanced role, which was one of the learnings from Ajax, and I am pleased that all the recommendations of the Sheldon report are being taken forward.

On closer industrial working at secret and exportability, that is entirely consistent with the defence security industrial strategy. That is absolutely welcome and a very positive sign. Above all, I am delighted with the emphasis on spiral development and the new concept of the MDC. We all know the benefits of that: getting something that is right and appropriate on to the frontline where it can be spirally developed is good for industry—it sees the drumbeat of orders—and good for the services, which do not need to think they are going to get everything in one bite. It is all positive.

The only thing I would ask is that we should not forget the basics. The Minister referred to this in his statement, but SROs who have enough bandwidth, support, and time and length on a project are absolutely critical, as is a culture in which they can experiment, and if something ain’t working, they should be able to pull stumps. That should not be a source of shame, but an inevitable consequence of being forward-leaning, modern and experimental. They should say, “This isn’t working; reinvest the cash elsewhere.” That should be commended when SROs come to the Minister with that kind of circumstance.

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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I am very grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee; he is absolutely right. Let me take those two points. On the importance of SROs, the biggest issue we face, ironically, for all the talk about technology, is people—that is across the economy in many ways and across the public sector. Yes, we want to empower SROs. There are some brilliant SROs in the Department and it has been a pleasure to work with them. I stress that I think we are now at the point where 90% of SROs spend at least 50% of their time solely on one project. That is very positive.

On my right hon. Friend’s point about cultural change, let me be frank. We can publish all the strategies we want, but if they are not delivered and do not change the culture, they will not have the effect on output that we want.

Let me return to my drone example. My right hon. Friend spoke about the need to learn from failure, which is how many of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world have succeeded. On the day of my visit to the SME that was developing a highly effective drone to be used on the frontline, the people there had received bad news, but crucially, they took that bad news, they spiralled the platform, they learnt from it, and they made sure that when it went out again it was competitive. That is the key to the system.

Ukraine: Military Equipment

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Tuesday 27th February 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Select Committee.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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I welcome all that the Government have been doing, including on Brimstone and the package of £245 million-worth of ammunition. However, may I ask specifically about 155 mm shells and the BAE Systems production line? Has it now got the orders to ensure that it is working at maximum capacity, on a war footing, to produce all it can to support Ukraine and indeed, in due course, our own stockpiles?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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It is a pleasure to take my first contribution from my right hon. Friend in the Chamber since he became Chairman of the Select Committee. I look forward to further discussion with him later this afternoon on other matters before the Committee. He is right to stress the importance of that contract—155 mm shells are one of the fundamental munitions we need to see both replenished for the UK armed forces and, where possible, provided into Ukraine, along with other key artillery classes. I can confirm that we signed that contract with BAE last July and it should lead to an eightfold increase in 155 mm production, initially in the Washington plant, but thereafter in south Wales. I am keen to see that get going as soon as possible.

Situation in the Red Sea

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 26th February 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Defence Committee.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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Open source information suggests that the strikes are diminishing the capability of the Houthis to attack international shipping. As that is both welcome and important, will the Secretary of State concur that that is also his assessment? It is welcome that Aspides and Prosperity Guardian are co-ordinating, but does that also include on the interdiction of weapons being smuggled from Iran into Yemen?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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My right hon. Friend is right that we are degrading—attrited, as they say in military terms—that capability. However, it is still the case that the Houthis are capable of launching attacks. To what extent? Well, the House will come to its own conclusions, but it will note that the gap between the first three rounds of attacks was relatively short, and that the gap between that and this fourth round has been longer. Again, we will wait to see what the response is.

On interdictions: yes, we will certainly continue to try to ensure that Iran is not resupplying. The single best message to go out from this House is that Iran should stop that activity. It is worth noting that it has been only Britain and the US that have been doing interdictions in the past few years—and, of course, we will continue to do so.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 19th February 2024

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Defence Committee.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Sir Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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Ukraine can win the war, and must win the war. The Minister touched on the provision of ammunition and equipment, but Ukraine also needs hundreds of thousands of trained personnel. I very much welcome the extension of Operation Interflex, and the work that we are doing, but could we not be doing far more of that with our allies to assist Ukraine?

Ukraine

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Tuesday 19th December 2023

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I believe that until recently the hon. Gentleman was a member of the Defence Committee, and I am grateful for that support from him and from his party. He asked a number of questions, but I think the most important was the one about what we could say about the support we are providing for Ukraine right now.

In my opening remarks I emphasised the importance of the maritime capability coalition, and Members will be more than aware of the importance of the Black sea and getting grain out of Ukraine. Since that corridor reopened, some 5 million tonnes of grain have been exported, and it is extremely important for us to retain that. We should also recognise that Ukraine has had significant success in pushing the Russian fleet eastwards to enable that to happen. However, we must not be complacent, which is why we are providing this naval support. We and Norway are joint leaders of the MCC, and when I visited Norway last week, it was clear that we are very strong naval partners because of the shared threat to our home waters that we face from Russian submarines, but we will keep on looking at what more we can do, and I am grateful to Members in all parts of the House for their support.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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In response to the question from the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey), my hon. Friend referred to UK companies helping Ukraine to build out its own defence capabilities. That is obviously to be welcomed, but can he also reassure us that the work we are doing to resupply Ukraine is an opportunity we are seizing to broaden and deepen UK defence capabilities, so that in the worst-case scenarios we can enhance our own ability to restock ourselves and our allies?

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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It is a pleasure to take a question from my right hon. Friend. He was an excellent Minister for Defence Procurement and an excellent Minister generally, and I always enjoyed the many Cobra meetings that were overseen by him, but he speaks with equal strength from the Back Benches, and his question is very important. When it comes to opportunities for future industrial production in Ukraine, I would like to see an opportunity for us to work together for our mutual benefit to create ordnance not just for Ukraine but for ourselves, because maximising that demand signal is the best way in which to secure the strongest possible military industrial base.

Global Combat Air Programme Treaty

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 18th December 2023

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the skills that the programme will provide throughout the UK. I am reminded of Thales, in Northern Ireland, and of how important the Next-generation Light Anti-tank Weapon has been to the battle in Ukraine—pivotal, I am told, when I speak to my opposite number. I have no doubt that some of the great skills and brilliance from Northern Ireland will be part of GCAP.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con)
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Having been involved in some of the early discussions with Italy and Japan, I warmly welcome this treaty and congratulate my right hon. Friend—they are truly excellent partners. However, he is right in saying that if we are to maintain those manufacturing bases for decades to come, we will need export orders. May I encourage him from the outset not only to look at exports from the licensing point of view, but to look at the potential for export variants, which will allow us to export while also maintaining national security?

Bearskins Clarification

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 5th September 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Written Statements
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Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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On 11 July in a debate in Westminster Hall on bearskins, I referred to data on potential faux fur products that had previously been shared with the Department, but I also stated that the Ministry of Defence had not received recent results data. Whilst my statement was in line with advice I had received, further work has revealed that this was not correct, and I wish to correct the record.

In May 2022 a letter was sent to the Prime Minister by PETA, copying Defence Ministers, enclosing a report against two of the five initial criteria that faux fur would have to meet in order for further work to be done to consider it as a replacement for the guardsmen’s caps. This was passed to officials in the Ministry of Defence, who responded on 15 June 2022 requesting that the report should be sent by the organisation that had conducted the tests direct to our partner, Leidos. We understand an email containing the report was sent but was blocked by Leidos’s spam filters and deleted. Subsequent to the debate, the email was re-sent, copying the MOD. After the MOD forwarded a copy to Leidos it was safely received.

To date, the Ministry of Defence has not seen a set of verifiable data that demonstrates a single sample of faux fur meets the five criteria. We are aware of testing that was carried out in December 2020 by an accredited testing house against three of the criteria, although the material only passed one of those tests: water penetration. As I have explained, we are also aware of further testing, conducted in April 2022. The MOD does not believe from the information we have seen that the organisation that conducted those tests is accredited by either the UK Accreditation Service or the International Laboratory Accreditation Co-operation. In order to consider taking any proposed product forward, we need test results that have been conducted by an independent and accredited testing house.

Consequently, we have not to date seen evidence that a suitable faux fur product exists to be considered as an alternative.

Currently, the foot guards’ ceremonial caps are sourced exclusively from Canada, which is a regulated market and a declared party to the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora. A CITES permit is required for the export of pelts from Canada to the United Kingdom. Canadian and international laws provide strict trade regulations to protect against unlawful trade in black bears, both within Canada and internationally. No bears are hunted to order for the Ministry of Defence; pelts are a product of legal and licensed hunting authorised in Canada by provincial and territorial Governments with the goal of long-term population sustainability.

[HCWS288]

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 18th July 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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Underpinned by a ringfenced £6.6 billion commitment to defence research and development, we are determined to innovate effectively and at scale. In addition to the well-established Defence and Security Accelerator programme this summer, we are launching the Defence Technology Exploitation programme, geared to supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and their innovative role in defence.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
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As my hon. Friend will know, we face a continued and substantial increase in attacks from cyber-technology. It is important to note that that is happening every single day that our defences are being probed. What further efforts will my hon. Friend make to ensure that our defences are secure and those attacks are rebuffed?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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My hon. Friend is right about that threat, and he is right to suggest that we need to be absolutely on our toes in dealing with it. The Department continuously integrates leading-edge innovative cyber-technologies into military operations, including intelligence agents for autonomous resilience cyber-defence and cyber-deception technologies, through the National Cyber Deception Laboratory. In doing so, we make active use of DASA funding and the excellent expertise that we have in the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

Paul Howell Portrait Paul Howell
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As we see in the tragedy that is happening to Ukraine, the normal boundaries of warfare are being ignored, with increasing risks of the employment of biological or viral warfare strategies. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need to be at the forefront of innovation and research to deliver the best possible platforms to defend against these abhorrent strategies, and that the work that companies such as Kromek in Sedgefield are doing in collaboration with others deserves full support and indeed acceleration?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am familiar with Kromek and its capabilities, and my hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that it is often SMEs that produce the most brilliant ideas, often working with excellent British universities. DASA finds and supports new ideas within defence, and I am delighted that SMEs make up some two thirds of the projects that DASA supports. Funding is also available for specialist innovative projects through Defence Science and Technology.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones
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Building on the comments about SMEs, the conflict in Ukraine has shown the benefits of technical innovation, particularly in the area of drones, and we have great SMEs in this country that are keen to help, so could my hon. Friend explain a bit more about how he is engaging with that sector?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question, not least because it gives me the opportunity to say how keen the entire defence sector is to support our friends in Ukraine in every way we can. We recently completed the application phase of our Ukrainian innovation fund competition, and no fewer than 295 proposals designed to deliver capability to our friends in the Ukraine in the very short term were submitted from 205 different companies. Many are being closely scrutinised, including 17 that have been shortlisted for immediate attention, and I am proud to say that the majority of contributors were SMEs.

Chris Clarkson Portrait Chris Clarkson
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As we have seen from recent events in Ukraine, air combat is incredibly important to maintaining our national security and also, as has been mentioned, to maintaining our economic security-supporting businesses, such as Middleton-based MSM in my constituency. Can my hon. Friend tell me what is being done to ensure that the RAF retains its cutting-edge capabilities?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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A brilliantly topical question, if I may say so, with Farnborough taking place this very week. I was delighted to announce last Friday at the Royal International Air Tattoo our £2.3 billion investment in ECRS mark 2 radar. This British-made world-leading electronic warfare capability will transform our combat air. It is just one example of how we will continue to invest in combat air as we develop our next generation future combat air system programme. We are currently investing some £2 billion into FCAS, with industry and international partners likewise investing in what will be an extraordinary combat capability.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd (Rochdale) (Lab)
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A few moments ago, the Defence Secretary mentioned Typhoon and the advantages of international co-operation. Is this Government, post Brexit, prepared to have a clear strategy to say that co-operation across Europe is in the interests of defence jobs here in the United Kingdom?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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It is absolutely the case that co-operation across Europe is helpful to our own defence sector and to the capabilities of the entire western alliance. A couple of weeks ago, I was there to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation, a major procurement hub that we do jointly with the Germans, the Belgians, the Spanish and the Italians. There are umpteen programmes, including Typhoon, to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and Boxer, on which we work very closely. Indeed, the ECRS mark 2 programme to which I have just referred will be integrated by a P4E integration programme across our Typhoon partners. It is absolutely right that we work with all our allies across NATO and they include many of our European friends.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to the shadow Minister, Chris Evans.

Chris Evans Portrait Chris Evans (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op)
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If this is indeed the last Defence questions for the present Defence team, I would like to place on record my thanks to the Minister for Defence Procurement for his kindness and generosity since I started shadowing him over a year ago. He is well known in the House for his attention to detail and he has been a formidable opponent for me.

“Complacent”, “too traditional”, and “resistant to change or criticism” are some of the words used to describe the Department by the Public Accounts Committee. With a new urgency for innovation due to the clear and present danger created by the war in Ukraine, and with deep concerns that the Department cannot manage large projects such as Dreadnought, is the Minister confident that the Department can deliver the new battle-winning capabilities this country needs, on time and in budget?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I very much thank the hon. Gentleman, my shadow, for his question, which started so well. I am very grateful and I hope that we continue our ongoing relationship across the Dispatch Box. I understand his concerns. They have been voiced by the PAC and we have responded to the concerns raised. I am afraid that I am a details bore, and we do go through the projects project by project. Defence procurement is never easy—it is a tough thing to get right—and I have not yet found a state anywhere on earth that can really deliver to the kind of standards that I am sure the hon. Gentleman would wish to see. What I do know is that, in Defence Equipment and Support and throughout the MOD, we have people who are doing a great job. They are becoming more professional, and senior responsible owners are spending more time on the projects. We are making sure that projects are properly set up to succeed at the start and ensuring that they are properly funded. It is that combination, along with working through the defence and security industrial strategy with British companies, that will get us the results we all wish to see.

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP)
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6. What steps his Department plans to take to counter threats originating in China in the context of the 2022 NATO Strategic Concept and joint address from the heads of MI5 and the FBI.

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Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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The hon. Gentleman has raised this with me on more than one occasion previously. I know that it matters greatly to his constituents. As announced back in 2016, Defence Business Services will consolidate its north-west estate into a single location. Last year, a thorough multi-criteria decision analysis was undertaken, which considered a number of locations and recommended consolidation in Blackpool. The full business case is being considered within the approvals process. I expect to make an announcement soon, and will write to the Members representing the constituencies affected.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd
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I thank the Minister for Defence Procurement for his answer, and for procuring some continuity in the Government, against the odds, by remaining in his post during this crucial time. Will he consider bringing the hubs in Liverpool and Manchester into the Defence Business Services workplace programme solution to avoid compulsory redundancies?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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What I can say is that in locating to Blackpool, as was recommended, we will do our utmost to avoid compulsory redundancies. There is a good working relationship at a local level with the trade unions, which are doing well to represent their members. There is an absolute expectation on our part that we will maximise the ability to work flexibly, with things such as deferred moves and everything else we can do to support our employees. This move was designed not to cut posts, but as an estate rationalisation scheme. That is at the back and the front of our minds, and we will work with the trade unions and our employees to ensure as few redundancies as can possibly be managed.

Paul Maynard Portrait Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con)
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I thank the Minister for moving so many of the jobs to Blackpool and to my constituency—yet one more to add to my list of wonderful things the Government have done for the town of Blackpool. Will he encourage all Government Departments, not just the MOD, to share his vision and his confidence in the people of my constituency?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I know we are not alone in putting Government jobs into Blackpool; it is a popular location, and it was entirely driven by the intensive work we did on finding the best location. I can reassure my hon. Friend and this House that we undertook a very serious bit of work looking at all available options, and the recommendation of Blackpool emerged as a result of that serious analysis.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

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Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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T8. I have met Airspace Unlimited, which is creating an airspace optimisation tool for defence airspace, which will assist the RAF’s ambition to be net zero by 2040 with an added benefit of supporting vital defence training for fifth and sixth-generation combat aircraft. Does the Minister agree about the importance of that and of supporting such initiatives through a defence and security accelerator?

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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I do agree. I think there are huge opportunities, and the hon. Gentleman correctly points out that the RAF has an ambition of 2040 for net zero. We are investing a lot of money, including £2.35 billion into the European common radar system or ECRS Mark 2, a prime recipient of which will be Edinburgh. Scottish companies have a lot of other opportunities to bring to our attention, and we will happily look at them.

James Gray Portrait James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con)
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I think it was at his keynote speech to the land warfare conference that the Chief of the General Staff made his oft-quoted remarks that this was “our 1937 moment”, that it was “perverse” to cut 10,000 people from the Army and that we would be at risk of being “outnumbered” in the event of warfare. Can the Secretary of State tell me whether that speech was cleared through his office before CGS gave it?

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Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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In a packed programme, I will do my utmost to visit the JEDHub centre. My right hon. Friend is too modest to point out that that came out of a recommendation from the Dunne report. It was a valuable recommendation, and knowing exactly what defence investment means for our economy is very good news for defence and very good news for the United Kingdom.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
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T10. A couple of months ago I was delighted to spend an evening with some Fijian veterans, and a good fun evening was had by all. I was able to express to them my personal thanks for their services to the British armed forces. I recognise the progress that has been made on visa fees for Fijian veterans, but will the Minister look at cancelling the costs of visas for Fijian servicemen and women’s spouses as well?

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Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab)
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Despite stark warnings from successive Chiefs of the Defence Staff and others about the vulnerability of our undersea cables in the light of increased Russian submarine activity, it took until 2021 for the Government to announce that they would acquire a multi-role ocean surveillance ship to protect that critical infrastructure. It was recently reported that the Government still have not decided on the capability required, a procurement strategy, or an in-service date. Why is that?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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We are looking closely at how we take forward MROSS. As the hon. Lady suggests, it was an important step to make that part of the defence Command Paper in spring ’21. We said that we would ensure that we brought that capability into service, but we need to get it right, and considerable work is continuing on what exactly that capability should look like.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
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“Meritorious” was the word that the Prime Minister used in this House to describe the application made under the Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme by a former Supreme Court of Afghanistan judge who put hundreds of terrorists behind bars, undoubtedly saving British lives. I was promised a meeting with Ministers on the subject; that never materialised, and suddenly, out of the blue, his ARAP application was turned down last week because he was deemed to have not worked closely enough with the UK Government. I plead with Ministers to meet me to review this hero’s case, because I have no doubt that he will be hunted down and slaughtered by the Taliban if we do not bring him to safety.